Well + wise: The artist inside

People The Arts

May 1, 2022

Finding time and space for creativity can benefit our mental health.

by Juliet Lam Kuehnle

Do you think you’re creative? When I ask this, people tend to immediately think about their musical or artistic ability … or inability. Consider the idea that, regardless of how many piano lessons you had as a kid or if your still-life paintings look more like Pollock, all of us are creative — and we need to tap into that creativity! As we get older, many of us find less time and space for creativity. Maybe we think it’s a waste of time or only for those who are “really talented.”

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to maintain an artist once he grows up.” We can change how we define creativity, and by focusing less on the outcome we can begin to understand creativity as a process. The energy in the flow of creating is magic. This is where we reap the benefits for our mental health. Outside of art or music, creativity also exists in the ideas or possibilities that come to us in the context of relationships, business and fun. It can be asking questions, learning something new or simply allowing ourselves to play. 

“Art-making is a personal journey in which you can connect to yourself and your body and find a way to release emotions and thoughts and make something out of them,” says Rebeca Carvajal, a registered art therapist in Charlotte. “The whole creative process is important because it can teach us to problem solve, understand our feelings, challenge unhelpful thoughts and share part of ourselves with someone else. Art expresses in ways that words can’t.” 

An attitude of curiosity, open-mindedness and flexibility enhances mental health, individually and collectively. When you understand creativity in this way, you might realize that you have it all throughout your day. 

Juliet spoke with Matt Olin, co-founder of Charlotte Is Creative. Below are excerpts from their interview, lightly edited. 

Tell us about your own journey with your mental health and therapy.

I’ve lived in a lot of different places. Throughout that time, I’ve had a lot of different counselors, therapists and coaches. My wife and I continue to do couples counseling. We love those sessions. It’s like getting a tune up, making sure the “check engine” light doesn’t come on more than it needs to. We find ourselves connecting on deeper levels. I’m also in a men’s group right now, and that is deep work between men that is super vulnerable and very fulfilling. 

It is an investment in your wellness, your future and in your connection with people. Its the bravest thing we can do, and I am super curious about how that shows up in a room full of men.

It’s beautiful. It definitely pulls the rug out from underneath this idea of what a “man” is and challenges toxic masculinity. When you go to that level and have those types of conversations and that support happening between men that are interested in evolving themselves and helping others evolve, you realize, “Oh, this is a real man.”

How does this inform your work?

I advocate for creatives to put their true selves out into the world, in their words or in their work, so I need to model that. I love to celebrate the creative spirit of Charlotte. The idea that Charlotte’s a creative place has never really been a part of the story. It’s that we’re great at business, banking and raising families. But Charlotte is creative. We can stitch that into the narrative. 

As we get older, creativity can get stifled out of us. And yet, from a mental health lens, creativity is so necessary.

Every person is creative. It’s just about how you define creativity. Not just painters, actors and musicians, but we can be creative in the way that we run our businesses or grow our families or serve our community. I just always want to encourage people to not think about creativity the way you probably were taught. Break it.

Juliet Kuehnle is the owner and a therapist at Sun Counseling and Wellness. The full interview of Kuehnle’s “Who You Callin’ Crazy?!” interview featuring Matt Olin can be found on Instagram @yepigototherapy or wherever you stream podcasts.

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